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Stuff [Jul. 11th, 2010|10:21 pm]
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As I mentioned in my last entry, I've been watching Babylon 5 lately. It's not a perfect show, but it has one big advantage: it's consistent and believable.

Contrast this with Doctor Who. Doctor Who is fun to watch, but if you think about it for more than two seconds you notice it's full of plot holes and contradictions. Things that cause time travel paradoxes that threaten to destroy the universe one episode go without a hitch the next. And the TARDIS, the sonic screwdriver, and the Doctor's biology gain completely different powers no one's ever alluded to depending on the situation. The aliens are hysterically unlikely, often without motives or believable science, the characters will do any old insane thing when it makes the plot slightly more interesting, and everything has either a self-destruct button or an easily findable secret weakness that it takes no efforts to defend against.

But I guess I'm not complaining. If the show was believable, the Doctor would have gotten killed the first time he decided to take on a massive superadvanced alien invasion force by walking right up to them openly with no weapons and no plan. And then they would have had to cancel the show, and then I would lose my chance to look at the pretty actress who plays Amy Pond.

So Doctor Who is not a complete loss. But then there are some shows that go completely beyond the pale of enjoyability, until they become nothing more than overwritten collections of tropes impossible to watch without groaning.

I think the worst offender here is the History Channel and all their programs on the so-called "World War II".

Let's start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Secret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn't look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apopleptic rage when he doesn't get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.

I wouldn't even mind the lack of originality if they weren't so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we're supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren't that evil. And that's not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese.

Not that the good guys are much better. Their leader, Churchill, appeared in a grand total of one episode before, where he was a bumbling general who suffered an embarrassing defeat to the Ottomans of all people in the Battle of Gallipoli. Now, all of a sudden, he's not only Prime Minister, he's not only a brilliant military commander, he's not only the greatest orator of the twentieth century who can convince the British to keep going against all odds, he's also a natural wit who is able to pull out hilarious one-liners practically on demand. I know he's supposed to be the hero, but it's not realistic unless you keep the guy at least vaguely human.

So it's pretty standard "shining amazing good guys who can do no wrong" versus "evil legions of darkness bent on torture and genocide" stuff, totally ignoring the nuances and realities of politics. The actual strategy of the war is barely any better. Just to give one example, in the Battle of the Bulge, a vastly larger force of Germans surround a small Allied battalion and demand they surrender or be killed. The Allied general sends back a single-word reply: "Nuts!". The Germans attack, and, miraculously, the tiny Allied force holds them off long enough for reinforcements to arrive and turn the tide of battle. Whoever wrote this episode obviously had never been within a thousand miles of an actual military.

Probably the worst part was the ending. The British/German story arc gets boring, so they tie it up quickly, have the villain kill himself (on Walpurgisnacht of all days, not exactly subtle) and then totally switch gears to a battle between the Americans and the Japanese in the Pacific. Pretty much the same dichotomy - the Japanese kill, torture, perform medical experiments on prisoners, and frickin' play football with the heads of murdered children, and the Americans are led by a kindly old man in a wheelchair.

Anyway, they spend the whole season building up how the Japanese home islands are a fortress, and the Japanese will never surrender, and there's no way to take the Japanese home islands because they're invincible...and then they realize they totally can't have the Americans take the Japanese home islands so they have no way to wrap up the season.

So they invent a completely implausible superweapon that they've never mentioned until now. Apparently the Americans got some scientists together to invent it, only we never heard anything about it because it was "classified". In two years, the scientists manage to invent a weapon a thousand times more powerful than anything anyone's ever seen before - drawing from, of course, ancient mystical texts. Then they use the superweapon, blow up several Japanese cities easily, and the Japanese surrender. Convenient, isn't it?

...and then, in the entire rest of the show, over five or six different big wars, they never use the superweapon again. Seriously. They have this whole thing about a war in Vietnam that lasts decades and kills tens of thousands of people, and they never wonder if maybe they should consider using the frickin' unstoppable mystical superweapon that they won the last war with. At this point, you're starting to wonder if any of the show's writers have even watched the episodes the other writers made.

I'm not even going to get into the whole subplot about breaking a secret code (cleverly named "Enigma", because the writers couldn't spend more than two seconds thinking up a name for an enigmatic code), the giant superintelligent computer called Colossus (despite this being years before the transistor was even invented), the Soviet strongman whose name means "Man of Steel" in Russian (seriously, between calling the strongman "Man of Steel" and the Frenchman "de Gaulle", whoever came up with the names for this thing ought to be shot).

So yeah. Stay away from the History Channel. Unlike most of the other networks, they don't even try to make their stuff believable.
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Comments:
From: (Anonymous)
2010-07-12 02:04 pm (UTC)

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Coming from Germany myself your thoughts seem a little strange. Well maybe I´m not getting them at all, but yes u are right about the history channel documentations .. but u can take any documentation about WW II they are all mostly exaggerated. On the other side WW II was fact and even if some or many things are corrected by the winners to make them appear in a better light ... let´s not forget who where the victims of this war and that the nazi were a fucking bunch of human "slaying" assholes. I don´t know if you have ever met some of the old nazis but I have encountered some of the so called neo nazis and they are not the funny type ... They have a total fixed sight on things and are willing to use force to terrorize you for the smallest fault.

But as stated at the beginning of my comment, maybe I´m not getting what you are pointing at, at all. So I´m sorry if I understand your post wrong, no offense ;)

@Ciphergoth: They actually did wear skulls ... That were the so called SS Totenkopfverbände. There is even a not so bad wikipedia articel about them ...
[User Picture]From: ciphergoth
2010-07-12 02:48 pm (UTC)

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You have to read the article in a funny way, I'm afraid: it's deliberately written as if WWII were a TV series instead of a real event.
From: (Anonymous)
2010-07-12 03:49 pm (UTC)

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Well yes I know that but it´s not especially easy to see every bit of irony or sarkasm if the used language is not your first language. At some point I was just irritated about the text. Could have been a bit shorter and more ... "to the point" (sorry don´t know how to say it) ;)

[User Picture]From: pomo_drunkard
2010-07-12 04:38 pm (UTC)

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This comment is not exactly improving the reputation for Germans as not getting irony or humor.
From: (Anonymous)
2010-07-12 05:02 pm (UTC)

Thank you

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:D Exactly what I thought. (And that's me being German as well... ;))

@Topic: Great article! :D

P.S.: I just hope, he wasn't serious about the whole "not getting it"...
From: (Anonymous)
2010-07-13 12:46 pm (UTC)

Re: Thank you

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I´m sorry If I´m confusing some of you people ...

Not everyones english is perfect allthough I´m trying to improve it so forgive me if not all texts make sense to me and that I might not be able to express myself as I wish I could ;)

I know the poster uses sarcasm to describe how exaggerated the documentations about WW II from H.C. are. But u can also say ... let´s take DCTP Documentations, they are also exaggerated. I think I just got confused by the length of the text and was searching for more meaning when everything lay right in front of me.

@pomo_drunkard: You might handle people of a certain nation that way but if you really form your picture that way ... you have my pity. And also thank you for "denying" me the right to post something especially if it confuses me.
[User Picture]From: scyllacat
2010-07-13 02:13 pm (UTC)

Re: Thank you

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It might help if you wrote as if you had a sense of humor. You seem increasingly critical... Yes, other things are exaggerated. No, the text is not particularly long.

There's a running joke here in the U.S. that The History Channel is "The Nazi Channel" because they spend so much time on WWII. There's another longtime criticism that The History Channel is not as accurate as something called "The History Channel" should be. This humorous diatribe combines those two ideas, but if you're not familiar with them, it won't be much of a joke.
From: (Anonymous)
2010-07-13 03:20 pm (UTC)

Re: Thank you

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Thank you for mentioning that @ scyllacat. My Girlfriend just told me about H.C. nickname 30 minutes ago ... If I had know that yesterday.

And yes your right (and I´m sorry) for sounding a bit (less or more ^^) critical. The tone makes the music ... *sigh*
[User Picture]From: katsaris
2010-07-13 09:09 pm (UTC)

Re: Thank you

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"I know the poster uses sarcasm to describe how exaggerated the documentations about WW II from H.C. are."

No, you still not get it. The poster is pointing out how utterly unbelievable REAL HISTORY would be if it was a piece of fiction.

You just don't get humour.
[User Picture]From: micheinnz
2010-07-14 08:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Thank you

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To be fair, they just don't get sarcastic/ironic humour that's not in their first language. And tbh that makes them more common than not.
[User Picture]From: wight1984
2010-07-14 02:46 am (UTC)

Re: Thank you

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"I know the poster uses sarcasm to describe how exaggerated the documentations about WW II from H.C. are."

I think it was appealing more to 'truth is stranger than fiction' rather than mocking documentaries for exaggerating history.

It evaluates real history as if it was fiction, hence criticising the name of the 'Enigma code' for unoriginality on the writers part. That isn't an exaggeration; that's what the code was called.
From: (Anonymous)
2011-07-01 03:36 pm (UTC)

hnFMlCPPyGmumn

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I rekcon you are quite dead on with that.
[User Picture]From: kevynjacobs
2010-07-12 05:22 pm (UTC)

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ROTFLMAO!
[User Picture]From: lafinjack
2010-07-13 02:10 am (UTC)

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[User Picture]From: pomo_drunkard
2010-07-12 05:26 pm (UTC)

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Shorter This Comment: "Please make this article less brilliant and funny. KTHXBAI."
From: (Anonymous)
2010-07-14 10:08 am (UTC)

TVtropes.org - "Reality is Unrealistic"

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A lot of "the point" is that parts of the story of WWII sound like they are pieces of fiction. The web site TVtropes.org is full of Narrative Devices and other tropes that television writers use.

Take a look at Narrative Tropes (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NarrativeTropes) - you'll find plenty of items there that have been included in this bit of parody.

On the page titled Reality is Unrealistic" (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RealityIsUnrealistic) has this to say:

This "review" of the History Channel's "World War II Show" provides a hilarious example. The author denounces the show for being a Cliche Storm full of lazy writing, and calls out The Bomb for being an Ass Pull with no Foreshadowing, which then became Forgotten Phlebotinum as the writers never used it again despite the numerous subsequent wars.
From: sutekh_nubt
2010-07-13 10:02 am (UTC)

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Agree. You realize it half way through.
From: (Anonymous)
2010-07-12 05:04 pm (UTC)

What it means

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This person is using sarcasm. They are not being serious about the entire section on Germany, but rather, it is meant to be humorous. The meaning can really get lost in translation.
[User Picture]From: droct
2010-07-13 05:50 pm (UTC)

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I think the point you're missing is not that it's so much a criticism of documentaries but it's a funny way of looking at history. It's poking fun at the way people complain about the plots of movies and TV Shows, by applying that thinking to actual events. If you look at WWII as if it were fiction, there are all kinds of outlandish things that really happened, but seem hard to believe if you look at them like you might a TV show.
[User Picture]From: iskandra
2010-07-13 11:00 pm (UTC)

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Hello "anonym"-I'm from Germany, too, and I found it hilarious. Why do Germans always have to Take Themselves Serious that much? It's like a really bad cliché in itself...
[User Picture]From: pig_catapult
2010-07-14 07:24 am (UTC)

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I don't understand why all these folks are criticizing you over something that seems to clearly be a language barrier issue.
[User Picture]From: superversive
2010-07-17 02:46 am (UTC)

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Could it be because people like iskandra and katsaris had no trouble seeing exactly what the humour was about, despite having to deal with the very same language barrier themselves?

Seems to me it’s not so much a language-barrier issue as a being-too-humourless-and-pedantic-to-get-the-point-at-all issue.
[User Picture]From: superversive
2010-07-17 02:46 am (UTC)

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Terrific post, btw. My first visit here; this goes straight into my memories. Thanks!
[User Picture]From: pig_catapult
2010-07-17 02:47 am (UTC)

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Ah. That. . . that'd do it.
From: (Anonymous)
2010-07-18 09:17 pm (UTC)

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Yes, you are misunderstanding the post. This is satire, brilliantly funny satire. The author is pretending that various history Channel offerins are episodes in a fictional TV series and then criticising it for its unbelievable elements. This is funny because, of course, all this really did happen but if you were to write it as fiction, no one would believe it.